Ladies, Don’t Reach for Your Wallet

When the waiter brings the bill, carefully placing it these days in the middle of the table, many women start slowly opening their purses, waiting for the man to insist on paying.  So common is this female feint for the wallet, that it even has a name.  It is called “The Reach.”  But it is just a gesture.  Even in these egalitarian days, by far most women expect the man to pay for the date.

According to several women’s magazines that I have perused, 77% of young women prefer the man to pay. Let me clarify that I do not for a moment believe that this is because these women are short of money or are trying to behave frugally at the expense of their dates.  I think they have a far better reason for preferring to be with men who graciously pay for the date.  Yet, if this is the case, why do so many women observe this ritual of “The Reach”?

One reason is they don’t want to appear to be gold-diggers cadging a free meal.  Another reason is they feel that by at least pretending to offer their share of the bill, they can preserve their feminist credentials. (Anything you can do, I can do better; I can do anything better than you. – Annie Get Your Gun, Irving Berlin, 1946)

Another reason is pride that they earn as much as the man they are with.  While,  on average, over a lifetime the population of men earn more than the population of women, most of those discrepancies kick in after marriage and children.  However, despite their earning power,  most women secretly prefer to marry men who make more money than they do. So the question of what to do when the bill comes leaves many women in a dilemma.

So what’s a woman to do?  On one hand, she enjoys surrendering her time to a man who happily pays for the date as a token of his appreciation for her company.  On the other, she feels slightly uneasy preserving what she suspects might be a relic of primitive gender relations.  Fortunately, Biblical insight offers the best solution, but it does come with some small attitude adjustment.

While dating, most women are hoping to meet the right man, “The One”.  The problem is that since he is on his best behavior, there are not many character-revealing moments in dating.  It used to be helpful to meet his family but nowadays his family might live across the country.  How can a woman get to know the character of the man she is seeing?

Ancient Jewish wisdom teaches that one can know a man’s character in three ways:

1.   How he behaves when he is drunk.

2.   How he behaves when he is in grip of an angry temper.

3.   How he behaves with money.

Most smart women will immediately drop a man who gets drunk as well as any man who has a nasty temper.  That leaves money.

The man who graciously pays for the date reveals several aspects of himself.  For one thing, he is probably a kind and generous person.  Second, he probably has a few dollars, and that also lets her know a few useful facts.  Most importantly, he probably has a job and a job indicates that he can get along with other people. Succeeding in his work also assures her that he is capable of deferring gratification in the interests of current obligations.  Making money means learning the privilege that is serving the needs of another human being.  And what is marriage but two human beings serving one another?  Having some disposable income is also a sign that a man is on the road to becoming an adult.  All these things provide far more valuable information than what he tells her over dinner or his observations on the movie they enjoyed together.

Paying for the date is merely the start of a road that leads to a man paying for an engagement ring.  And what of the man who proudly informs his fiancée that the ring he has just placed on her finger was one he acquired at a local flea market for a dollar fifty?  One might expect her to smile fondly at her beloved and assure him that she thinks of him as both smart and frugal.  Yet, anyone who knows anything about how the world REALLY works, knows that most women won’t be happy.  Does this mean such women are shallow?  Not at all. What it does mean is that most smart women need assurance that the man they choose to spend their lives alongside has money.  Not because they love money but because having money tells so much about a man.

The first instance of wooing a woman, albeit by proxy, is when Abraham sends his servant to bring home a wife for his son, Isaac.  Upon meeting the girl and identifying her as “The One” he gave her valuable jewelry.

And it came to pass, as the camels finished drinking,
that the man took a golden ear ring of half a shekel weight,
and two bracelets for her hands of ten shekels weight of gold.
(Genesis 24:22)

Later, upon meeting her family and securing their permission for the match,

And the servant took silver and golden articles and garments,
and he gave them to Rebecca, and he gave delicacies
to her brother and to her mother.
(Genesis 24:53)

While there is deeper meaning to these gifts, the surface message is important. Showing financial stability says a great deal about a man. Yes, women may reach for the bill, but men, think carefully of how you react and the message you send.  Allowing her to pay not only tells her that you are not thinking of her as a potential wife, but it also tells her a lot more about you.  The linkage between money and marriage is real and women, though they might have been socialized not to believe this, do still seem to  realize it.


18 thoughts on “Ladies, Don’t Reach for Your Wallet”

  1. Your post has confirmed my instincts. When I was of dating age, I avoided any male who had credit problems or who blatantly lived beyond his means. I was chastised (by more than one male) for being “calculating.” Yep – I “calculated” a good way to avoid bankruptcy and to judge character.

  2. Delfina Correia

    Aaaah! We’re going for 20 years … too late for that one now! Hee hee!! Just kidding – We are now stuck together 🙂 … but I will make sure my daughter knows this one!

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Yes, Delfina–
      I especially had young women in mind while writing this Thought Tool. It is so challenging to be growing up today. It was never easy but today there are fewer and fewer voices of sanity in a vast sea of abysmal ignorance and misdirection.

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Yes, indeed Akanna,
      This podcast about women paying or pretending to pay was important which is why I also wrote up the idea in this Thought Tool. I hope people read one and listen to the other..each adds something not found in the other. Thanks for mentioning it.

  3. From one of your Catholic friends in San Diego–

    Thank you for writing your columns. They contain a great deal of wisdom, and I appreciate everything you write.

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Thanks for writing Martha
      and for your kind sentiment. I am privileged to be able to make ancient Jewish wisdom accessible to everyone.

  4. Shannon, she who loves maths

    I was taught regardless of whether you do “The Reach” or not- as a lady on a date always make sure you have cash on you. You never know if that dashing gent is a broke bloke in fancy kit until the bill arrives. Then there are also the terminally forgetful. Both are two types that should be avoided and “not marriage/adulting ready.”

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Dear Shannon, She Who Loves Maths-
      The main reason your parents told you to have cash on you is that you should be able to escape and take a taxi home any time you wished.

      1. Dear Rabbi,

        You are right again! When I started dating at 18ish, my parents always made sure I had a $20 bill in my shoe in case I had to take a cab home. It was not always the same $20.


  5. Fortunately my spouse of forty-nine years had a remarkable sense of discernment because when I was wooing her I was twenty-four and just out of the service, working at whatever menial jobs I could find as there was a major recession going on in the greater Seattle area marked by a billboard that said, “Last man out of Seattle turn off the lights.” I drove a broken down Volkswagen with a cord tied to the steering column for a makeshift gas pedal and worked at framing houses for $3.50 an hour. My only redeeming quality is that I had fallen head-over-heels for her back when we were teenagers and was unrelenting in my desire to have her as my beloved wife one day. Somehow she saw something greater than money, though I was always kind and generous towards others, money was something that always seemed in short supply back then. We borrowed $200 and gave the minister $10 to marry us and we honeymooned for twenty four hours at Tyee Motor Inn and toured the Olympia Brewery. My spouse saw something greater up ahead for both of us and said, “I do!”

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      No, Mark,
      I don’t believe that your ONLY redeeming quality was that you had fallen in love with her. I believe she saw far more in you than that. I am sure that many, if not most men would have fallen in love with her. You displayed far more. In a recession during which many Seattleites sat around complaining about there not being any work, and indeed work was rare, you had a JOB framing houses. That was surely part of what she saw.

  6. I always had a 3 Date Rule – if I did not consider the man to be a potential husband – I did not have a 4th date. Most men did not make it to the 2nd date.

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Dear Sharon–
      I’m confused…doesn’t a ‘3 Date Rule’ mean that every man gets three dates in which to prove himself? Sometimes one has an off day. So, I can understand that guys without potential never made it to date #4 but why would someone not make it to date #2?
      Well, anyway, as long as it all ended well.

  7. Though not precisely on point, there is another excellent tool to assess character on a dinner date. Each of the parties (man or woman) is motivated to treat the dinner date kindly. So doing so is not necessarily the best test of character. How he or she treats the waiter or waitress is a better test of character, because there is no obvious motivation to be on best behavior with the server or with any servant.

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Right, Norman,
      I have been told of both men and women who abused the waiter on a first date. A valuable warning sign for everyone

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